Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2008. Living in the hospital was SO new and daunting back then, and even though Mattie began chemotherapy, he hadn't lost his hair yet. Pictured with Mattie were Jessie and Jenny, Mattie's art therapists. These two women were incredibly talented, gifted, and special people. They made life much more bearable for us in the hospital and they truly understood all of us, not only Mattie. After Mattie's death, Jenny and Jessie both left Georgetown. In my perspective, the clinic is no longer the same without their presence. The old saying that anyone is replaceable is simply not true. Mattie created two things that day at the art table, the first was a boat (which he eventually took home and sailed in the tub) and an alligator. The alligator was made out of a large clip with googly eyes, and Mattie was holding this clip in his left hand. Mattie's alligator remains in our kitchen today connected to my copper pot and pan rack.
Quote of the day: I learned in the support group that if you were compassionate before your child died, you became more kindly. If you were a selfish SOB, then you acted as if you were the only one who lost a child. I finally got angry and quit the chapter. People competed. One parent would say, "my child died in an accident and I never got to say good-bye to him. At least you got to say good-bye." Or someone whose child had a lengthy illness might say to someone whose child died in an accident, "my child suffered; at least yours didn't suffer." I couldn't stand the one-up-man-ship. I had to leave. ~ Thomas
I certainly know from my educational training that support groups are not for everyone. However, having experienced one session of a grief support group was enough for me to know it wasn't for me! The exact dynamic Thomas describes above is what I observed. From a clinical standpoint, I understand parents are hurting, need to be heard, and also need people to realize how awful their child's death is. But my attendance at that support group shortly after Mattie died was not as a clinician but as a member. I remember distinctly after that two hour ordeal, I was LIVID. I felt we had to compete for air time, and then parents wanted to out do each other in the stories they were telling. I found that NOT only annoying, but most importantly not helpful or therapeutic. A support group is only as good as the members who are a part of it, and unfortunately one bad experience does cloud one's judgment to try this avenue again.
It does become an interesting dilemma however, when you feel that you can't be heard and understood by parents who haven't lost a child, and then you attend a support group with bereaved parents, and you don't feel connected there either. There are many bereaved parents who feel like I do and fortunately over time in our case, I eventually met several families touched by the death of a child whom I could relate to. This camaraderie makes a huge difference.
Despite the intense humidity today, Peter and I went for a walk on Roosevelt Island. We hadn't been to the Island in weeks. Walking was absolutely painful in the heat, but as usual we weren't disappointed with the sightings. A beautiful great blue heron was sitting in the Potomac River, and because I did not want to carry my camera with me, I missed the opportunity to capture that moment. Weekends can be challenging for Peter and I, and given how I have been feeling, my fuse is very short. Yet Peter and I have been married quite a while, and dated for 7 years even before that, so we are pretty much used to each others highs and lows. With Mattie's death of course, some of these moments can seem more pronounced. However, this weekend, we are celebrating our anniversary, and as such we are trying to get out and do things, and appreciate the fact that we do still have each other.